5 Tips to Tame the Teams Fire Hose

If you are like many users in an organization where Teams adoption is growing fast, you are being added to a LOT of teams. After a certain point, it becomes daunting; an overwhelming list of teams and activity that is akin to drinking from a fire hose.  Most chat based collaboration app’s suffer from this challenge – how do you allow end-users to participate in all of the projects and teams they are part of it, yet, allow them to focus on what they need to do?

There are many different approaches to this problem, and the right one depends on your situation (how many Teams and Channels and your level of participation).

This blog post offers a few simple tips to help focus on the collaboration you need to be part of day-to-day. It is not an exhaustive list, but will hopefully offer some effective quick help.

Tip #1 – Customize your Notification Settings

Teams ships with default notification settings that can be very distracting when you start to leverage Teams for a lot of day-to-day collaboration. These notifications can be customized quickly (click on your Profile Picture | Settings |Notifications).

The most distracting notifications are Banner and email, so reserve those notifications for time sensitive important notifications. For me, that is “Replies to conversations I started“, or “Replies to conversations I replied to“. FYI, Banner notifications are large notifications which appear in the bottom corner of your screen.

My settings are included in the screenshot below. What this reflects is moving away from active distracting notifications to relying on the Activity feed. Which is a segue into Tip #2.

Tip #2 – Live by the Activity Feed!

As you start participating in many teams, there is no escaping the fact that there is just a lot going on! The best method I have found to handle this is to have a quick birds eye view of all that activity. Enter the Teams Activity feed – the Activity Tab in the left hand side bar as shown here:

If you adopt similar Teams-wide notification settings as in Tip #1, the majority of activity in your teams that you are a member of will go to the activity tab. A convenient notification bubble with the number of new activity entries will also be included, which also shows up on the Teams app icon in the Windows taskbar as shown here:

One of the big benefits from adopting the activity feed as the main source of ‘what is new?’ and ‘what needs my attention?’ is that it shifts the mindset from being a disruptive and reactive notification workflow to a more intentional workflow chosen at the time that best suites when you are able to process it.

Tip #3 – Customize Individual Channel Notifications Based on Your Level of Participation

Confession – I do not like customizing a lot of individual notification settings, especially individual channels, so I was reluctant at first, but it does make a HUGE difference in being able to effectively manage all the teams you are a member of. Your participation level on all the teams you are part of varies greatly – so it makes sense that customizing your notifications will be beneficial.

A good approach is to set most channels that you actively use to a custom notification that either has “all new posts”, or as I have set it here, only “each time the channel is mentioned” show in the activity feed.

Channel Notification Settings

If there is a Channel where you need to follow the activity very closely, you can set the customer notifications to show all new posts and channel mentions to “Banner and feed”. Be careful with the Banner though – again – it can be very distracting.

Tip #4 – Pin Important or Frequently Used Channels

Many users surprisingly do not know use this feature, but you can select the settings for any channel (the three “…” to the right of the channel name) and select Pin channel. This pins the channel in the Teams client above all of the teams you are a member of as shown here:

This makes it very convenient to access these channels. Use it just for that – channels you are actively using everyday that you need to visit often. You should not have more than 10 channels here.

Tip #5 – Use the Mobile Client!

Microsoft has truly embraced a mobile-first mentality and has done a superb job with high functioning native look-and-feel mobile applications for Microsoft Teams.

These clients are built with a different technology stack (then the web and desktop version), and can offer an easier and sometimes faster method to catch up with all the activity you are part of.

Specifically if you are part of many Teams organizations (aka Tenants), switching between those tenants and associated identities can be very slow and cumbersome on the desktop or web client. The Teams mobile clients allow you register multiple identities and all the Teams organizations they are part of. Tenant switching is one-click and usually happens within a couple of seconds! This makes quickly scanning the activity in several organizations quick and easy.

Also, with the mobile client you can do this anywhere. Whenever you have a couple of minutes to check-up on Teams activity you can open the mobile client and do a quick scan. As a bonus tip, if there is a Channel post you need to revisit later, you can click on the settings for that post (again the “…” settings on the specific post), and mark it as unread. This will treat it as an unread entry in your notification feed. Likewise you can Save that post and access it in your Saved posts which is accessible with one-click from on your profile picture.

This blog post offered a few simple tips and a starting point. Really do spend a bit of time knowing what you can customize and play with the different settings – one or two settings can yield a huge pay off in productivity.

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